NBA Player Becomes First Openly Gay Professional Athlete

This week’s Sports Illustrated cover story is a first-person essay by 34-year-old NBA center Jason Collins, who has just become the first openly gay male athlete in major American professional sports. Retired athletes like former basketballer John Amaechi have come out before, but this is pathbreaking.

I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay. I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, “I’m different.” If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.

Among the revelations in the piece:

  • Collins said he envied his old college roommate at Stanford, Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy III, who marched in a gay pride parade in 2012
  • Collins wore the number “98” this season to commemorate the year 1998, during which the infamous anti-gay hate crimes against Mathew Shepard were perpetrated and the Trevor Project was founded.
  • The Boston Marathon bombings “reinforced the notion that I shouldn’t wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect,” wrote Collins, who played with the Celtics this year. “Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?”

[Sports Illustrated]